This year, at the end of September, the maturing anti-corporate
globalization movement is poised to make history. During the fall meetings
of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, tens of thousands
of people will come to Washington, D.C. to denounce the institutions'
policies, and to challenge the logic of corporate globalization.
If you can make it to Washington, D.C. for the protests, teach-ins and
cultural events, make the effort. You will learn a lot, have fun, and make
a difference. (A calendar of events is posted at the Mobilization for
Global Justice's website, www.globalizethis.org. Information on a teach-in
for action presented by Essential Action and other groups is posted at
This year's demonstrations and activities build on the success of last
year's April 16 protests against the IMF and World Bank, while promising
to be both broader and more strategically focused.
The key achievement of A16 was shining a spotlight on the IMF and World
Bank. While people from Argentina to Zambia have conducted mass protests
against the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World
Bank over the last 20 years, the institutions have managed to escape
critical scrutiny in the United States. Unfortunately, however, the IMF
and World Bank are not accountable to developing countries, whereas they
are to the United States and other creditor countries. It is protest and
media attention in the United States that most worries the IMF and Bank.
This fall's protests against the IMF and World Bank are sure to replicate
and surpass A16 in energy, turnout and media attention.
They will benefit as well from much deeper involvement of organized labor.
Last year, the AFL-CIO and a number of major U.S. unions endorsed the A16
rally. This year, the AFL-CIO is devoting substantial staff and financial
resources for the large September 30 rally -- planned in conjunction with
the Mobilization for Global Justice and several other organizations -- and
is making a significant effort to turn out union members.
Organized labor's involvement marries the institutional influence and
powerful membership of the AFL-CIO and affiliate unions with the energy,
passion, creativity and turnout capacity of the street protestors. The
partnership has the capacity to push forward shared demands of the IMF and
World Bank and to leverage real change at the institutions.
The Mobilization for Global Justice has crafted four inter-related demands
for the IMF and Bank. These demands follow from priority concerns of Third
World labor unions, debt campaigners, environmentalists and other allies.
The first demand is for the IMF and World Bank to open all of their
meetings to the public and media, and to make all key lending documents
Second, the IMF and World Bank must cancel the debts owed them by
impoverished countries, using their existing resources.
Third, the Mobilization for Global Justice calls on the IMF and World Bank
to end the "structural adjustment" policies -- the standard IMF/World Bank
policy package which calls for slashing government spending,
privatization, and opening up countries to exploitative foreign
investment, among other measures -- that hinder people's access to food,
clean water, shelter, healthcare, education and the right to organize.
Organizers are focusing particular attention on IMF and World
Bank-mandated "user fees" -- charges -- that impede access to primary
Finally, the World Bank must end all support for socially and
environmentally destructive projects, such as oil, mining and gas
activities, and large dams.
Each of these demands is specific and achievable. They are connected to
ongoing international campaigns, meaning the energy and attention
generated by the demonstrations will not simply dissipate when the
protesters go home. Some version of each of the demands is under
consideration in the U.S. Congress.
Over the years, environmentalists in particular have won some important,
though partial, victories at the World Bank. But by and large, the
institutions have remained impervious to criticism.
In the last couple years, there has been a rhetorical revolution at the
Bank and especially the IMF, with all activities now described in terms of
poverty reduction. But the rhetorical shift forced on the institutions by
the international jubilee (debt cancellation) movement and A16 have not
been matched by comparable changes in policy.
The convergence of forces around this fall's protests in Washington
contains the potential not to just shine a light on the IMF and World
Bank's abuses, or to win rhetorical concesions, but to galvanize existing
campaigns to limit the power of the institutions, and to begin to force
meaningful changes in the institutions' policies.
This opportunity may not repeat itself. That's why it is vital that those
who can come to Washington, do.
Washington, D.C. at the end of September. It will be a lovely place to be.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor and co-director of Essential Action, a corporate
accountability group. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The
Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common
Courage Press, 1999).
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman